Hope for Common Ground.
HOPE FOR COMMON GROUND
By Julie Hanlon Rubio (Georgetown University Press, 2016)
The ugly polarization of public life in the United States infects broadly and deeply. Speech, desire, perception, belief, and knowledge are all in play. Catholics are divided by that polarization, too, and the church's call for faithful citizenship fails when Catholics are unable to come together to face the moral questions of today's public policies. One side looks predominantly to state action and the other preaches virtue and personal transformation. The church struggles to find common direction on issues such as poverty, abortion, and marriage.
Julie Hanlon Rubio's Hope for Common Ground tries to provide that direction by proposing pragmatic, small-scale, and incremental policy possibilities that Catholics can support regardless of their ideological preferences. She highlights the potential of programs and communities of service as venues for addressing critical public policy needs where progress has been stymied due to polarization.
Rubio's book is best in its review of the theological place that communities offer us to live as Christians in the world. Her call for choosing the incremental and the pragmatic--and I would add "the prudential"--is compelling. But perhaps her argument is a bit too hopeful about what can be achieved without political engagement. Likewise, pragmatic realism and incrementalism can militate against vision. Small communities, as anyone from a small town knows, can be closed and repressive of difference. And these can be also mechanisms to escape from the responsibilities Christians bear toward the common good.
Between the personal and the political, eschewing unrealistic dreams of revolutionary changes and radical transformations, Rubio identifies small but real patches of common ground for Christians to make a difference. --Stephen Schneck